Robot in a box: building a platform to teach robotics in schools

Third year students from the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering delivered a group project to create a complete system that teaches robotics in schools.

Third year mechatronic and robotic engineering students were asked to design and build a complete robot in a box system to help school children learn about robotics
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MEng Mechatronic and Robotic Engineering students Josh Gilmour, Reuben Mitchell and Chris Wheat did their third year group project creating a robot in a box; a teaching aid to teach robotics in schools. 

There’s huge potential for robots to be used in schools as practical way to teach Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM). However, robots can be expensive for schools to buy, hard maintain and there can be safety issues where robots have moving parts. Students were challenged to design a robot in a box, that found a way around many of these problems. 

The team created an integrated system where a robot could be programmed and controlled using a user friendly computer platform - within a lockable enclosure to ensure safety.

The decided to use a systems engineering approach, looking at the cost of the parts and the value they would bring to the project. They used CAD for their design and manufactured the enclosure in the University's iForge MakerSpace.

They decided to integrate both a drone and a ground vehicle into the system and use a tether to power them, as lithium batteries, commonly used in portable devices, are difficult to store in schools and ensure they’re fully charged. The team also created a custom designed website and integrated all the different parts together. 

To programme the robots they used Raspberry Pi and Arduino hardware and used Robot Operating System (ROS) to programme and code the devices - this is software widely used in industry. 

As part of the project Josh, Reuben and Chris met with a secondary school teacher from King Edwards VII School, to ensure that the concept would meet the end user requirements.  

This is an excellent example of what our students on the MEng do for their third year group projects. 

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